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Dollar Menu Opportunities

  • Mary Biever Contributing Writer
  • Updated Mar 30, 2010
Dollar Menu Opportunities

"What's a dollar menu?" a friend's son asked us years ago as we went through a drive through.

"It's what we choose our dinner from," I answered.  

"My family doesn't do discount stores," a girl told a friend of mine this week "WE don't shop in such stores, and I won't go in."

My children are well educated in dollar menus and discount stores.

Each day, we learn of other friends or family who have lost jobs.  It's harder to be the parent facing limited income and higher bills - and hungry kids who just outgrew their clothes.

We may not realize this is a blessing for our children.  In my childhood, I lived in two worlds.  The first had excess, privilege, and easy spending.  In the second, I had a paper route at age ten, bought all my own clothes in middle school, and left home at 18.  I was given the gift of living in vastly different circumstances.  Each had its own challenges.

In this downturn, we can teach our children to be frugal, self reliant, compassionate, and careful with dwindling resources.  Gardens may have more food than flowers this year.  We learn to celebrate the dollar menu when we have the chance to enjoy it.

We teach our children by our example.  They can learn lessons: don't waste food, spend money you have, buy used and secondhand items, and live within your means.  If we eat out less, we can eat in more.  The more often we eat meals as a family, with our kids, the less likely they will  succumb to temptation as adults.  Our hard times now equip them for challenges tomorrow.

My husband and I have owned a small business the past 9 years.  We've known disasters and blessings.  God has been with us in all circumstances, most especially years ago when our home and business burned and we lost almost everything we owned.  

Years after Almanzo and Laura Wilder lost their home in a fire, they had boxes for their table and chairs.   When they started their apple orchard, they had to work 5 years to turn a profit and took countless odd jobs.  Almanzo described their work: 

"I think that one thing that has made my orchard a success is that I took individual care of each tree. What that particular tree needed it got. Wife and I were so well acquainted with the trees that if I wished to mention one to her, I would say "that tree with the large branch to the south," or "the tree that leans to the north," etc. The tree that leaned was gently taught to stand straight so that the sun would not burn the bark....The trees came into bearing at seven years old, and the apples were extra well colored and smooth skinned. I have had apple buyers and nursery men tell me that my orchard was the prettiest they ever saw, and my Ben Davis are different from any I have ever seen in being better colored and flavored and in the texture of the flesh."

Twenty years after they bought Rocky Ridge Farm, the Wilders realized their dream of a self-sustaining farm with dairy, poultry, and fruit and a dream house.  Decades later, during the Depression, Rose used her tough childhood knowledge of gardening and food preservation to feed her friends and neighbors. 

The twentieth century was the Century of Stuff.  We spent money we didn't have to get Stuff.  Then Stuff didn't meet our needs, so we borrowed more to get new Stuff.  Our friends and neighbors got better Stuff, so we ditched what we had to get more in debt for more Stuff.  Our homes got too crowded because we had Stuff, so we needed to buy a bigger house, which needed to be filled with more Stuff.  The Stuff turned into shackles.  

Our world was built upon sand that has collapsed.

Our children can learn not to worship at the False Temple of Stuff.  They can learn to distinguish a want from a need.  They can honor and worship the one true God and his Son, our Savior.  The less distracted we are by Stuff, the more we can see, hear, and experience God.

They will also learn creative problem solving.  How do we fix the food chopper after it breaks instead of throwing it out to buy a new one?  Can we used milk that's started to sour for baking?  How many meals can a single roast stretch to feed?  

Blessings can come from great crises.  This year, our kids helped earn the tuition for different classes they took.  They learned new skills in the process and suddenly wanted to make the most of their opportunities.  

We may face a lifetime of shifting circumstances.  God can take all of them and make good things happen.  Now's our chance to show our kids how we can be richer with a simpler world.  We have centuries of examples of American ingenuity and tough pioneers.  

Less stuff and more God is a good thing.  Our struggles now - and our responses to them - can give our children a legacy of character and skills which can impact the world in ways we can't imagine.

"Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." - 1 Thessalonians 5:18

*This article published February 9, 2009.